or Astral Travel in 600 words.
The Nigerian writer and critic Ikhide Ikheloa is disillusioned about many things, and does not shy away from saying them in his frank and often witty essays at the Nigeria Village Square, African Writer.com or in the Nigerian Newspaper, NEXT – the wasted opportunity of Nigerian Pro-Democracy Activists to right the wrongs of the country when it eventually got into their hands after decades of military rule, and the portrayal of Africans by Africans themselves in movies, novels and plays written for the Western market. He has written this guest post about his positive perception of technology as the new reality – the new weapons of navigating the labyrinths of the world.
The writer-traveler Kola Tubosun visited me in Washington DC a few months ago. We had a great time. We had never met physically; however our spirits had been communing for several moons through the Internet. I do enjoy the company of African writers even though most of these meetings have been mostly on cyberspace. The Internet is today the world’s number one wonder, offering new opportunities and challenges and taunting our expectations of community. I know now from living on the Internet that the human spirit is superior to the flesh, unless when you are having really good sex. Every now and then I actually meet someone I have known on the Internet for a long time. The meetings are always joyful reunions, flesh pressing flesh in celebration of the indomitable spirit.
Travel and communication are abiding mysteries. Life is energy, restlessness and movement – of the body and spirit. The mind wanders and travels everywhere bearing gifts, burdens, and anxieties. I often reflect on the awesome power of the airplane and the first (foolish) passenger who hoped to return to land after the flight. Today, unmanned drones hit men praying in caves thousands of miles away from the Nevada desert.
In Nigeria, when we were little, we would string together two empty tins of condensed milk and try to communicate with the result. It was awesome hearing your friend’s voice on the other end. Today, my eleven year old son is a digital native. His Smartphone is his flashlight, jukebox, Internet access and remote control. He has built an electronic fence around himself, and only allows access to those who have earned it. If it would just uncork my bottle of Malbec, now, that would be powerful.
In Africa, citizens have been mercifully spared the tyranny of inefficient state-sponsored telecommunications. Cell phones are ubiquitous and have muscled their way into the lexicon of popular African culture. In Nigeria, people are using cell phones for robust commerce. They are also empowering women and children, restoring to them the privacy denied them in a paternalistic analog world.
The Internet offers us amazing new opportunities to reconnect with the best of each other. New and emerging technologies are redefining our traditional notion of exile. It is now the norm to communicate with Africa in real time from anywhere in the world. I sometimes click on Google Earth and visit my childhood haunts. For me, exile doesn’t hurt as much as it did when I left home three decades ago.
Tubosun’s travels around America remind us that new and emerging technologies are redefining our traditional notion of exile. I salute the bravery and tenacity of the new writers and travelers. I salute the writers of generations before, warriors like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Flora Nwapa, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Dennis Brutus, etc, who traveled to strange places of the heart and this world armed with nothing but their imagination and returned to teach us about the things they had learnt in their restlessness. They were our freedom fighters, teachers, entertainers and Internet access. Theirs was a crushing burden and they bore it with grace. Today the wonders of computer technology and modern travel make it possible for the individual to become a municipality of one and ignore the new criminals in black ravaging the land. We may be losing our best minds to narcissism. These new tools should empower us to help our people. Who are our freedom fighters today? What is the role of the African writer in the emancipation of Africa? Do we have an obligation to use our gifts to fight for much needed change in the land of our ancestry? I strongly and passionately believe so. There is so much to celebrate in the resurgence of African writing; our suffering people deserve some of the dividends. There is hope. It is up to us.
Ikhide writes from firstname.lastname@example.org, and I thank him for this wonderful expose. I don’t know what I’d have done without access to the internet and these new tools of technology, so his perspective resonates strongly with me and the purpose of this blog, which is to explore new ways of interacting with the world and confronting challenges of present generations with the means of information technology. Past guest-posts can be read here.